Saturday, June 15, 2013

love anthony

from Amazon

My nephew is autistic.

Ever since he was diagnosed, I've read anything I come across that has to do with the subject. The back blurb of Lisa Genova's novel love anthony caught my attention immediately. She tells the tale of a woman who is grieving the loss of her autistic son, and trying to make sense of his short life.

Not surprisingly, I flipped immediately to the Author page to see whether she was dealing with autism in her own family, but the brief bio on her gave nothing away. I bought the book and began reading instead, and knew I'd made the right choice on page 15, when Genova writes this about her character:

     When Anthony turned three and they were told with certainty what they were dealing with, she believed she'd find somebody somewhere who could help them, an expert who could transform their lives.
     She scoured every self-help book, then every medical journal, every memoir, every blog, every online parent support network. She read Jenny McCarthy and the Bible. She read and hoped and prayed and believed in anything claiming help, rescue, reversal, salvation. Somebody somewhere must know something. Somebody must have the key that would unlock her son.

When Wyatt was diagnosed, I, too, read Jenny McCarthy's book, and blogs, and memoirs, trying to see if there was something we could do to pull Wyatt through "the window" as Jenny described it. We inundated my brother and his ex-wife with information and they processed their own information, and we all moved toward acceptance at different speeds.

I'm not Wyatt's parent. I'm his aunt. And as such, I know I can't cure him. I can't experiment with the multitude of approaches that seem almost limitless in their scope. It's not up to me - or any of us, really, to try to "save" Wyatt. This book helped me see that. My brother and his ex-wife already seem to know that. This is Wyatt. He is autistic, and that's okay.

But there's still that niggling to figure out how to connect with Wyatt in some way. The boy in Genova's book is so much like Wyatt that I was both excited and nearly compelled to write to the author and tell her how much her book validated everything we've experienced with Wyatt. He is so like the boy in the book that I was astounded. And I came away from the reading with one little take-away that I feel like I just have to try.

The boy in the book likes musical birthday cards. I know Wyatt isn't Anthony, but I'm going to go buy a card anyway, because what if Wyatt likes it, too? I'm not sure I can ever stop trying to reach him.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hollywood Comes to Mansfield

When the producers of The Shawshank Redemption began scouting locations, they wanted an empty prison to use. With its imposing structure and stone walls, the Ohio State Reformatory (OSR) was the perfect choice.


Much of the movie features the cell blocks where Andy and Red reside, and the outside yard where their friendship was formed. I had hoped to see the cell blocks featured in the movie, but learned that they had to build that set somewhere else since prison cell blocks don’t face each other. Some of the administrative offices were in good enough condition to be used as movie scenes. The Warden’s office was intact, and the safe we see him enter his ill-gotten gains into was set into the wall here.

I shared the shots of Brooks’ apartment in my last post. That was on location, as well as the room where Red approached the parole board each decade.

What I don’t have pictures of are scenes from other movies filmed at the Ohio Reformatory. Movies like Air Force One, Tango & Cash, Fallen Angels and Harry & Walter Go To New York. Plus, Marilyn Manson once used the site as a backdrop for a fashion layout.

Haunted Mansfield

Not surprisingly, the Ohio Reformatory is also the site of many paranormal investigations. On several occasions throughout the year, the prison hosts Ghost Walks, overnight Ghost Hunts, and Haunted Prison Halloween Tours in October.
Zac Bagans of Ghost Adventures filmed an episode here. Apparently, his partner Nick felt burning sensation in one of the cells. (But then again, doesn’t someone from Ghost Adventures always feel some sort of attack?)

The TAPS crew of Ghost Hunters filmed here, too.

My husband is dying to go on an overnight ghost hunt, but I’m not as eager. The building is creepy enough during the day, with lead-based paint peeling from the walls and ceilings and rusted iron bars disintegrating onto my body and clothes. I peered into many of the cells and then scurried down the rusty plank toward the slightly-more sturdy rusted stairs.


Though I’m sure I’ll give in eventually and hunt for ghosts all night, I was satisfied wandering through the prison during the day. In addition to our regular self-guided tour, we took a “Behind the Scenes” guided tour of the nooks and crannies of the prison. For $5.00, it was quite a value! We spent an hour and a half with our guide, exploring the basement, solitary confinement, the attic, the armory, both cell wings, and learned the history of the prison and the changes it underwent throughout the years.

It’s actually a beautiful building. Even the decrepit parts were majestic, in their way. But I felt no need to wander around there at night with a flashlight and EVP device, crouching in musty, cramped cells looking for ghosts. After all, Ohioan Jeffrey Dahmer’s picture is hanging among the Ohio Penal System artifacts at OSR, and I have no desire to meet him, dead or alive! Nor any of his prison pals, either.